In June and July the T-4’s have been writing. The T-4’s are long-time friends I’ve been getting together with regularly since moving back to Manitoba. We all taught together in the past–hence the T in our name. Last month I introduced my friends to a poetry writing exercise I used to do with my high school students. Using the poem Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon as inspiration, we wrote about childhood memories and shared our reminiscings with each other.
Our assignment for our recent rendezvous at the Gates restaurant was to use the memories we had recorded in June to create a poem of our own using the Where I’m From pattern. I think we were all a little surprised about how emotional an experience it was for us to write and then share our poems with one another. One friend had included meaningful photos of her family with her writing. One started with lovely descriptions of the areas of England where both sides of her family originated, while another chose to write about her memories of her daughter’s childhood and growing up years. We agreed we had all been blessed to come from families where we were given the gifts of traditions, faith, and a rich storehouse of memorable and positive experiences.
I chose to write my poem about my family’s cottage at Moose Lake, a place of many happy memories during my childhood. Here’s my poem.
I am from skinny- dipping in the dark, rummy games in the glow of the kerosene lamp and six cousins up on skis behind the boat
I am from horse flies and mosquitoes and the time a mouse frightened Auntie Margaret in the outdoor biffy – screaming she ran out with her pants down around her ankles
I am from swimming through seaweed, the lake itch, a salt- shaker for the eels, washing and drying dishes, building forts, planting pines, swamping the Pepper and catching frogs
I’m from charades, jig saw puzzles, the sand pile, the tire swing and my nose in a $1 pile of books from Good Will–Elsie Dinsmore, Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew
I’m from collecting shells and driftwood at Lake of the Woods, walking to the store for ice-cream and the buck we guided to shore by the antlers
I am from Segne Vater, Johnny Appleseed and God is Great before meals, church at the camp on Sunday morning, and the neighbor coming to Dad to get the fishhook out of his hand
I’m from coffee and cake at Auntie Selma’s– “walk backwards and sing if you see a bear”- from “swords into ploughshares”- “be happy”- “wear a life jacket” and– “it will be better by the time you’re a grandma”
I am from hot nights and canoeing down the path of the full moon, chocolate chip cookies, Dad making eggs to order and roasted marshmallows
I am from Grandpa dog paddling and telling us stories of Russia round the fire- trying to tip the boat in a bout of rebellion, loons calling, fish jumping and spotting the bald eagle’s nest
Hanging on the wall is the cabin journal adorned with birch bark and berries- stories from a family haven- the one constant place in my life.
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